CAPITAL REGION — If school started tomorrow, roughly 90% of the Capital District YMCA’s before- and after-school programs would not be able to operate due to staffing shortages, according to the organization’s director of Childcare.
While the programs don’t actually begin until Sept. 12, and the YMCA is in the midst of a hiring campaign that the nonprofit expects will mitigate the staff shortage, the YMCA is sounding alarm bells this week to try to avoid having to scale back operations.
“We’re starting to use the word crisis,” said Lynn Siebert, executive director of child care for the Capital District YMCA. “It is a crisis because if we can’t open, parents have to find alternatives to [before and/or after-school] care for their children. That’s going to impact every community in a different way.”
The Capital District YMCA, which operates before- and/or after-school programs at about 40 sites across 14 school districts, currently has between 1,350 to 1,450 students enrolled in morning and afternoon programs for the upcoming school year, Siebert said.
To meet this demand while operating with the required, state-set staff-to-children ratios, the YMCA needs to hire more than 130 staff members, Siebert said. The positions are hourly, ranging in pay from $13.20.hour to $19/hour, and candidates as young as 16 can apply.
(See below for job fair information.)
The YMCA operates programs in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Galway, Shenendehowa, Bethlehem, Guilderland, East Greenbush, Mohonasen, Albany, Schalmont, Glenville-Scotia, Schenectady, Schodack, Coxsackie and Duanesburg school districts, and the impact of the staffing shortage will vary from district to district, according to the YMCA. Families with questions about programming in their districts can contact the Y directly.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services requires one teacher for every eight 4-year-old students, one for every nine 5-year old children, one teacher for every 10 school-age children through age 9, and one for every 15 children ages 10 to 12. Class sizes are also capped, depending on each age group.
Staffing for before- and after-care has long been a fluid process that stretches deep into the summer, but the pandemic has only made hiring more difficult, Siebert said. The current staffing shortage at this point in the summer is consistent with what the YMCA saw during the first two years of the pandemic, she said.
“Since the pandemic, this has been our norm,” Siebert said. “This year, I think we were cautiously optimistic that coming out of the pandemic and it being more endemic, that we would see folks more interested in working for the YMCA.”
Last school year, the YMCA provided before- and after-school care for 1,672 students, and no programs opened late, according to Emily Lang Anastasio, director of marketing for the Capital District YMCA. However, the YMCA relied on staff from administrative offices to fill some positions last year, Anastasio said.
Responses from school districts have been mixed, with some — such as Duanesburg and Schalmont — saying they are in constant communication with the YMCA to get a handle on the before-and after-school-staffing situation, and other districts expressing surprise.
“As of right now, we are not aware of any programming issues or impact,” said Karen Corona, the Schenectady City School District’s director of communication and public information. “We have three sites that offer programming, and it’s possible that if they are having difficulty finding staff we might be impacted. We will discuss with them and learn more.”
The Shenendehowa Central School District is still finalizing its enrollment, but many parents, particularly those who are interested in a universal prekindergarten program the district launched last year, have been asking about the availability of after care, said Sara Schneller, the district’s director of Student Learning and Data Accountability. Schneller noted that before- and after-care availability does not impact a spot in the UPK program.
“We see that there is a great need for [before and after care], but we also have a lot of families that will decline spots because they’ve already got something set up,” Schneller said. “But those who don’t may quickly realize the options that they thought were potential options might not be options anymore.”
Duanesburg is holding out hope its before-and-after school YMCA programs won’t be affected.
“We have recently been made aware of the difficulty the YMCA has been having in finding staff members. The district continues to help them get the word out about these important positions in hopes that the situation will be remedied soon and not affect the start of the school year for our Duanesburg families,” said Superintendent of Schools James Niedermeier.
Cuts to child care services tend to impact communities of color most, said Dave Brown, president and CEO of the Capital District YMCA.
“The CDYMCA is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, knowing that these efforts create better opportunities for all,” Brown said in a news release announcing upcoming YMCA job fairs. “Statistically speaking, when child care locations close, communities of color are economically impacted the most. We are working hard to prevent this crisis in our communities.”
The YMCA, which opened before- and after-school enrollment in April, has jobs posted year-round, Siebert said. In addition to upcoming job fairs, the YMCA is visiting college campuses and shopping malls to increase recruitment. YMCA representatives will be at Crossgates Mall on Friday and the University at Albany next week, Anastasio said.
Last year, the YMCA increased hourly wages, and it has offered sign-on bonuses as high as $2,000, but the increased compensation hasn’t made much of a difference in application volume, Siebert said.
“We feel like we have kind of exhausted our creativity, but we keep fighting the good fight, because we have about 1,400 children starting Sept. 12,” Siebert said.
The YMCA is hosting the following job fairs to help fill positions:
August 24, 5:30 – 7:30 pm: Bethlehem YMCA, 900 Delaware Ave., Delmar, NY 12054
August 30, 5:30 – 7:30 pm: Glenville YMCA, 127 Droms Rd Scotia, NY 12302
August 31, 5:30 – 7:30 pm: Southern Saratoga YMCA, 1 Wall St., Clifton Park, NY 12065
September 8, 5:30 – 7:30 pm: Schenectady YMCA, 422 State St, Schenectady, NY 12305
To apply online for childcare jobs, please visit CDYMCA’s employment page.
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.